As the Buffalo Sabres experiment with different line combinations throughout the preseason, one line that’s had success in the past is being put back together.
For the first time at training camp this season, Tyler Ennis was playing center. He skated between left wing Marcus Foligno and right wing Drew Stafford and will take the ice with them when the Sabres host the Toronto Maple Leafs at First Niagara Center on Saturday at 7 p.m.
The trio was arguably Buffalo’s best line at the end of the 2011-12 season, but wasn’t able to click last year.
“I’ve been on the wing. I’ve been working hard. I felt comfortable [at left wing] and I’m going to test out center tonight,” Ennis said after practice. “I’m going to work hard at it and hopefully we can rekindle some of that chemistry tonight and see how it goes from there.”
While he hasn’t scored a point yet this preseason, Ennis has had a noticeable jump in his step in the two preseason games he’s played in so far.
He’s also played with different linemates in each game. He played left wing in Columbus on Tuesday with rookies Johan Larsson and Joel Armia. On Thursday against Carolina, he was with center Mikhail Grigorenko and right wing Brian Flynn.
Sabres coach Ron Rolston said part of the reason for the switch is that Ennis hasn’t had the puck enough in those first two games. He indicated that playing Ennis with two left-handed centers may have played a role as well.
“The thing with [Ennis] is he’s gotta have the puck. If he’s going to be the player that we want him to be and we know he can be, he’s gotta have the puck on his tape,” Rolston said. “We’re just trying to find that right combination so he can do that.”
Ennis started last season at center before moving to the wing as the year wore on. Ennis said that it’s important to have that versatility.
“I think it’s good to be able to play both positions. The first two games, I felt good on the wing. Hopefully I can pick up where I left off in the middle at some points last year and play well tonight,” he said.
Jhonas Enroth will start for the Sabres and is expected to go the full 60 minutes. Matt Hackett will be backing him up.
82 Marcus Foligno – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford
9 Steve Ott –25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 23 Ville Leino
28 Zemgus GIrgensons –12 Kevin Porter – 65 Brian Flynn
37 Matt Ellis – 8 Cody McCormick – 36 Patrick Kaleta
10 Christian Ehrhoff – 3 Mark Pysyk
6 Mike Weber – 4 Jamie McBain
52 Alexander Sulzer – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
1 Jhonas Enroth
31 Matt Hackett
MAPLE LEAFS LINEUP (via MapleLeafs.com)
SESSION TWO 12:30 p.m.
Forwards: Luke Adam, Joel Armia, Daniel Catenacci, Colton Gillies, Cody Hodgson, Johan Larsson, Tim Schaller, John Scott, Corey Tropp, Philip Varone, Thomas Vanek, Mike Zigomanis
Defense: Drew Bagnall. Jerome Gauthier-Leduc, Brayden McNabb, Tyler Myers, Chad Ruhwedel, Henrik Tallinder, Nikita Zadorov
Goaltenders: Ryan Miller, Matt Hackett